Archive for June, 2011
I have honestly been listening to this track non-stop for over a week now. This track just makes my heart cry. Justin Vernon of Bon Iver performed this Bonnie Raitt cover on Jimmy Fallon a while back and the song has been popping up all over the interweb. The song is beautiful and Justin Vernon’s rendition of it is beautifully executed. I hope you enjoy!
Holy Moley! The crowd was going wild for The Coppertone at El Mocambo Saturday night of NXNE. I was that awkward asian girl trying to enjoy the show behind some middle-aged woman that kept on sexy dancing to the sounds of The Coppertone. When people dance, are they not spatial aware of their surroundings? Anyhow, this is the second time I’ve seen The Coppertone and I’m still blown away by the voice that comes out of front-woman, Amanda Zelina. The Coppertone recently released their Hymns for the Hollow EP through Dine Alone Records. If you’re a fan of blues/old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, you’ve got to check out The Coppertone. A full stream of Hymns for the Hollow is available here.
Yonge & Dundas Square was PACKED for this set. Stars played a nice selection of tracks from their albums. There setlist included, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead,” “Calendar Girl,” “Take Me To The Riot,” “In Our Bedroom After The War,” “Dead Hearts” as well as “We Don’t Want Your Body.” Their set was a little over an hour long. I didn’t manage to stick around for their encore, but I was pretty content with the portion of their set that I got to see. The last time I saw Stars perform was during the University of Toronto’s 2007 frosh week. I was going into my second year at that point and my love for Stars forced me to make the trip into the city just to see them perform.
Photo Courtesey of Getty Images
Ok, confession time and in the spirit of full disclosure I want to start out by saying I am not a U2 fan. I mean I do like some of their music but they lost me completely after Zooropa which I have to admit is one of my favourite albums and not just a U2 album. I liked the experimental stage and was disappointed that they, in my opinion, dropped the ball and caved to fan demand by returning to their familiar sound and style. To me it showed a side of them that many are now questioning namely a band that is more interested in the monetary gains than the music they make. Now that is going to be a very unpopular opinion considering the sheer volume of hits they’ve had over the years and the quality of the songs they have written. And that’s a very valid defence but, for me (and I can only speak for myself), I have to wonder what if.
It seems that over the past decade or so, U2 are more and more becoming an object of ridicule by many people, and by my observation, mainly the younger crowd who are having trouble reconciling Bono’s continuing activism on the part of the voiceless and his (and his band’s) financial situation. Many see him as a uber-wealthy hypocrite. He preaches help for the poor meanwhile he jets around the world and lives in mansions. It didn’t help that in 2004 and again in 2006 Apple launched a special edition iPod Nano with the band members signatures engraved on the body. This was part of a partnership that U2 and Apple agreed to that also saw the single Vertigo from How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb being released exclusively in the U.S. through iTunes; an advertising campaign for the U2 Nano and the release of the digital box set The Complete U2 that was sold through iTunes. When the relationship with Apple soured, U2 approached RIM, the makers of the Blackberry which became a major sponsor of their 360 tour. This and their partnership with Live Nation was seen as a wholesale sell out and a swan dive into the pool of outright commercializm. From my point of view, any band has the right to make money anyway they see fit and I’m sure U2 made a tidy profit from all of this.
And then in 2006 the band moved their music publishing company from Ireland to the Netherlands to minimize taxes, a move that disgusted many of their Irish fan base and which led to the Friday night protests at Glastonbury. Obviously they must not have thought about the fact that they could have used TurboTax for free instead. This move came at a time when Ireland removed an exemption on royalties meaning that U2, with millions in sales, would have been on the hook for millions in taxes whereas in the Netherlands they would pay nothing or at the very least a nominal amount. So U2, prior to the 2006 exemption removal, paid nothing in royalties to Ireland and when they moved to the Netherlands continue to pay nothing for their royalties. Irish fans felt shafted by the group. They felt that U2 was abandoning their social responsibilities to their home country inspite of the fact that U2 remain Irish citizens and have invested heavily in Irish businesses. And true, their corporation generates many jobs for many people who then contribute to the economy through their taxes.
“It’s actually, I think, more honest to say we’re rock stars, we’re havin’ it large, we’re havin’ a great time and don’t focus on charity too much — that’s private; justice is public,” (Bono to the Sunday Independent June 2005).
The problem faced by U2 isn’t unlike what the Beatles and Rolling Stones faced in England, pay exorbitant taxes on your wealth or move elsewhere where the taxes are more favourable. And in the grand scheme of things it is their decision to make and we have no business telling them they are wrong. Face it, U2 with holdings and investments all over the world probably already pay hefty taxes in many different countries so for them to try to save a bit isn’t the wrong thing to do from a sheer business perspective but a problem arises when you look at it ethically. Is it ethical for Bono to go around and badger world leaders, many of whom are facing financial crises in their countries, to fork out money to help the poor when he himself is dodging taxes in his home country?
Is it ethical, or even moral, for a band that makes so much money to shift the tax burden to another country when they are not citizens or residents of it? Is it ethical, or moral, for an individual to ask countries that he is not a resident of, citizen of or a contributor to, to spend their tax dollars in the manner in which he would like? Is it moral or ethical of Bono to ask the Irish government to spend more on the poor or victims of crime when the largest part of the U2 corporation is not contributing to the governments revenue (it is estimated that their removal to the Netherlands cost Ireland about 1% of its total income tax revenue)? This is not the only method that U2 have used to save on taxes, according to an article on Bloomburg.com, in the 1990’s they used non-executive directors who lived in low tax countries as tax havens for the band members. And I’m sure there are many other tax loopholes that U2 has taken advantage of, let alone the various write-offs on investments and tax breaks for charitable donations/foundations and other non-profit works. So while it is true that it seems that U2 pays more in taxes overall than the GDP of a small country, I think it is also safe to say that they have more ways of saving on taxes than you or I will ever know about. So the net result is that they probably don’t end up contributing the same percentage of income in taxes as you or I would.
I don’t dispute that U2 has worked hard and earned every penny they make. I think every band is entitled to keep the income they get from royalties and am appalled when I hear stories of how record companies continue to rob their talent by getting them to sign away their copyrights. It’s not up to me to judge what anyone does with their income so although I find it skeevy I can’t rightly criticize U2 for doing what they are doing and yet it still doesn’t sit right with me. A lot of people say that U2 are not obligated to tell anyone what they earn or how much they give to charity and that is correct. They are under no obligation, however, since Bono has made it his life’s mission to help charities and to be a watchdog for the poor by making sure governments live up to their promises of funding, then it is essential for him to be transparent in his financial dealings. To not do so is a serious blow to his credibility. How can he possibly ask corporations and governments to forgive third world debt, to cough up millions for charitable organizations or to promise untold millions in financial aid when he may not be doing the same. He is very vocal about how to help the poor and how others should spend their money but extremely quiet when it comes to himself. In order to be credible, Bono, you really do, as a public figure, have to put your money where your mouth is. With so many other celebrities willing to disclose how much they earn and their charitable contributions, especially Bill Gates who has made donations to your charities and has worked with you on a number of projects, you just come across as secretive and dishonest.
“At a certain point, I just felt, you know, God is not looking for alms, God is looking for action.”
For me it all comes down to morals and ethics. I admit that I have very high moral and ethical standards. I admit freely to being a hypocrite, but when you think of it so is everyone else. Humans have a contradictory nature because we are complex organisms. However, because Bono has made a point of trying to become the voice of the poor and has lobbied loud and extensively on behalf of the poor, I hold his ethics a bit higher than I would a normal person so, for me and I speak only for myself, I find the fact that his continued outspokenness on behalf of the world’s poor while all the time his is making money hand over fist and refusing to disclose how much he contributes personally to charities, hypocritical in the strongest sense. I understand that according to his spiritual beliefs giving to charity is a private matter and is a way to demonstrate his humbleness before a higher spiritual being, however, by being so public about how he views the way the world distributes it’s wealth he has lost that option. I’m sorry but, for me, if he feels he has the right to tell another country how to spend it’s money in a public manner then we have the right to question how he spends his.
And for your enjoyment, the first part of U2’s set from Glastonbury, June 24, 2011. You can see the rest of the set here and many, many thanks to Justin Tyler for posting them and many others.
SBTRKT has unleashed his debut album unto the world and you all need to listen to it now:
His upcoming show at Wrongbar on July 8th should not disappoint!